How to avoid the D.R.E.A.D of change

Published by Tim Levey on 9 March 2022

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Let’s be honest, as humans, we all dislike change (most of the time)!

Some people might object to this statement and say that they like change but if you were to take them to their local supermarket once the contents of all the aisles had been moved around, then they probably wouldn’t be too happy!

Is it a coincidence we find that over the past two years of turmoil, there are more reported cases of stress-related illnesses? At least part of the reason for this is that as human beings, we have an in-built D.R.E.A.D of change.

Many people can allow themselves to adapt and see that change is good, resulting in them positively embracing change, but deep down the fear is still there. When you come to impose change on other people, these fears usually come to the surface.

The D.R.E.A.D of change means that when you impose change on others, their first inclination is to Deny that there is anything wrong with the way that things are done at the moment. They will convince themselves that nothing is broken and so nothing needs fixing. A form of paralysis takes over. As an example, this can apply to processes within your business, that have been to the go-to for years but haven’t been very efficient for many years.

They then move slowly into Resistance, doing anything possible, often unconsciously, to slow down or hopefully stop the imposed change process. Instructions will be heard but then quietly ignored.

After a time, enough evidence builds up to convince them that they at least ought to Explore whether the change proposed might make life easier in some way. When they are convinced, they start to Accept the possibility, before finally getting on with things and Doing it.

Unfortunately, whilst everyone goes through these definable stages, it happens at a different pace for each individual. Some go through it with no issues, whilst others will continue to deny and reject the change.

Top three options

So, when you feel that change is necessary, and needed in your team, you have at least three options:

1. Do nothing and risk being overtaken by those who are able to see and make the necessary changes.

2. Impose the change on the team but recognise the D.R.E.A.D model and aim to get everyone through the cycle as quickly and painlessly as possible. In terms of maintaining morale during this difficult process, speak with those involved and explain the process and the benefits. But for those who resist, the worst you can do is penalise them. They need to understand the benefits they will get out of the proposed changes.

3. Put the issues faced in front of the team and allow them to agree on the necessary changes. This means that rather than positioning staff in a corner and announcing that some restructuring is needed, lay out the issues and let them reach their own solutions.

The last option may be your most powerful weapon. As people who positively and actively embrace change will realise, it is less stressful when you initiate it yourself. This is also the fastest way of getting people to accept the need to change themselves.

If you would like to discuss the topics explored in this article, contact us here.

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